Public relations 101 advises disclosing bad news on Friday afternoons when fewer people are paying attention. Donald Trump went one better by announcing on Christmas Eve that he was closing his troubled foundation.
Trump tried to make it sound as if this was a heavy-hearted gesture designed to resolve any conflicts of his interest that may follow him into the Oval Office. "I don't want to allow good work to be associated with a possible conflict of interest," he said.
But shuttering the tiny foundation falls far short of resolving Trump's bigger business conflicts, and seems more like an attempt to stay one step ahead of investigators. Indeed, the president-elect failed to mention the New York attorney general is investigating the Donald J. Trump Foundation. He also failed to mention the foundation admitted in recent Internal Revenue Service tax filings that it engaged in "self-dealing."
Instead, Trump boasted in a Dec. 26 tweet that he gave millions of dollars to his foundation, which was then given to charity. But the truth is Trump's foundation is also fueled by other people's money.
From 2009 to 2014, Trump gave no money at all to his foundation. One of the foundation's biggest donors was Linda and Vince McMahon, founders of the World Wrestling Entertainment empire. The McMahons gave the foundation $5 million between 2007 and 2009. Trump nominated Linda McMahon to the head the Small Business Administration.
The foundation's funds were used for dubious purposes, including $30,000 for two large portraits of Trump and $258,000 to settle lawsuits involving his for-profit clubs, the Washington Post reported. The foundation spent $12,000 to cover Trump's winning bid at a Palm Beach charity auction for a Denver Broncos helmet autographed by Tim Tebow.
The foundation donated $25,000 to a committee backing Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi as her office was considering whether to investigate fraud allegations against Trump University. Bondi did not go forward with the probe. Not to mention, as a nonprofit, the foundation was prohibited from making donations to political candidates.
To be sure, closing the foundation makes sense. But the move does not resolve Trump's broader business conflicts.
Trump serves as an executive for more than 500 companies, according to his campaign disclosure form. The businesses are spread across 20 countries and total about $3.6 billion in assets and $630 million in debt, according to an analysis by Bloomberg News. The full extent of Trump's conflicts is unknown because he has refused to release his tax returns like every other president has over the last 40 years. Trump canceled a planned news conference earlier this month to address his business conflicts. A spokesman said the president-elect will address the issue in January.
Anything short of liquidating his businesses and putting the proceeds in a blind trust - as other presidents have done - will fall short of resolving Trump's conflicts of interest. The potential for mixing personal business and politics will raise questions about his policy motives. As such, Trump's conflicts could lead to constitutional issues that risk hobbling his presidency.